LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather, said Richard Schaefer on Tuesday as he looked across a large crowd that had gathered in the lobby of the MGM Grand specifically to catch a brief glimpse of the world's best boxer, is a details man.
The chief executive officer of Golden Boy Promotions, Schaefer said there are few details of a business deal that escape Mayweather's eagle-eyed scrutiny.
On this day, the people had crowded around a makeshift boxing ring erected in the lobby to help promote Mayweather's welterweight title fight Saturday in the Grand Garden Arena against Robert Guerrero. Many were snapping photos; a few carried signs in support of Mayweather. All were lively as they awaited his entrance.
A video board behind the front desk at the hotel included a scroll of a Twitter feed filled with comments about the fight. Trying to kill time to appease the crowd until the man they came to see had arrived, the day's host shouted into a microphone. Tickets, he said, were still available. The fight, he noted, was live on pay-per-view.
When Mayweather made his way through the adoring crowd a few moments later, he beamed broadly as it roared his approval.
"You know," Schaefer was saying, "he'll come in and look around here and he'll notice things. 'Why did we do this? Why didn't we do that? We should try this.' He's just coming into the hotel and no one even realizes what he's doing, but he's looking around and thinking about how we can do things even better."
While for years Mayweather's fawning employees have spoken of how "Floyd is his own boss," for once, Saturday's Showtime pay-per-view bout is really and truly his show.
When he bolted HBO for Showtime in February and signed his historic six-fight, 30-month deal, a contract that could net him more than $250 million, he bargained fiercely to gain absolute control.
The details matter to Mayweather, greatly. He cares so much about them that one of the biggest items in the contract gives him full control over all aspects of the promotion. He's the executive producer of every bit of programming that has aired or will air to promote each one of his fights, whether it be on CBS, Showtime or the CBS Sports Network.
Six years earlier, Schaefer was promoting Mayweather for the first time and had no idea what to expect from him. The two have developed a fast friendship since and the one-time Swiss banker admits to being blown away by the boxer's business sense. Mayweather, Schaefer said, is involved in what occurs in the fight's promotion at the most granular levels.
Mayweather insisted that Schaefer put fight advertising in specific magazines, including Jet and XXL. He wanted fight spots purchased on hip-hop radio stations, and made a list of which ones should be targeted.
For years for big fights, the MGM Grand would put the fight's artwork on the room keys and on gambling chips.
Why, Mayweather asked Schaefer, didn't they extend that idea to the 'Do Not Disturb' placards that hang from a room's door? At Mayweather's request, that was done, so sometime this week, as a hotel guest ventures down a hallway, he or she will encounter the 'Do Not Disturb' placards silently marketing the fight.
"Can you imagine a boxer who has to worry about training and making weight to fight the best fighters in the world being concerned with what is on a hotel's 'Do Not Disturb' signs?" Schaefer asked, chuckling.
But there are roughly 5,000 rooms in the MGM Grand, and most people will handle the 'Do Not Disturb' sign at least twice a day. That's many thousands of impressions a day in the critical days before the fight, when many fans make the decision to buy a ticket or purchase the pay-per-view. That little extra awareness could push someone over the edge.
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"There's nothing at any level he's not a part of," Schaefer said. "He notices everything."
As Mayweather sat on a couch adjacent to the casino a few hours later in a room jammed with staff, friends, fighters and media, Mayweather reflected a bit on the 57-day stint he served in the Clark County Detention Center after a guilty plea to misdemeanor domestic violence charges.
Since his release, he's rarely spoken of what the experience was like. He was the world's highest-paid athlete, but he spent 23 hours a day in his cell, released only for an hour at a time five days a week. On weekends, he said, he never got out of the cell at all.
That, in part, explained the hulking physique he had developed by the time he was released in August. On the night of his release, he tweeted a photo of himself that showed surprising muscle mass, partly in his trapezius area.
It all came about because he noticed what was happening around him, the details. He said as he showered, he saw other, heavily muscled inmates and began thinking.
"I looked through the door, and I saw some of the inmates kind of cut up [physique-wise]," he said. "I'm like, 'Damn, how do you get big like that in here?' "
He saw that the inmates, with nothing else to do, worked out maniacally. When they were in their cells and didn't have access to exercise equipment, they did push-ups, over and over and over.
"I could hear the guys working out," he said. "I could hear them working out in their rooms. I went to the commissary and bought a deck of cards when I ordered my food. I got a deck of cards. I was doing push-ups. I got the deck, and I don't know the exact number because it's been a while, but I was doing push-ups. Eventually, I went through the deck twice. Then I went through the deck three times a day.
"My jacket, the outfit they give you, started fitting tight. I didn't have a mirror, so I couldn't see. But the day before I was going to go home, I took off my shirt, and all the inmates, they were like, 'Oh yeah.' I knew I must have gotten bigger, but I couldn't tell. I was just doing push-ups, every day, every day."
The inmates, he said, learned how to adapt. Many played chess, he said, and they figured out how to do so even if they weren't anywhere near each other.
They would improvise and find a way to do what they wanted to do. It's a philosophy he noted that he wanted to make sure to adopt upon his release: No matter the circumstances, find a way to get the job done.
"I was with the worst of the worst," Mayweather said. "Everybody I was locked up with, [they were in for] life, [on] death row. There was a story about a guy who had chopped people up with an ax. They're talented inside there, though. They're very talented.
"They make their own chess pieces and play chess. A guy could be in a room and the other guy would be in a room, phew, six doors down, but they still played chess with each other. They [would yell out their moves]. I was like, 'Man.' "
He decided he'd adopt the same level of ingenuity into his work when he was released. He called his jail time "an obstacle," but tried to spin it into positive terms.
"It was a minor setback for a major comeback," he said, solemnly.
He took several opportunities to note he's the sport's biggest attraction.
"In Mike Tyson's time, he filled up the MGM," Mayweather said. "I've taken it to another level. We fill up all of Las Vegas."
In the past, he's never shown much of an interest in propping up the sport that made him rich and famous beyond what it was able to do for him.
But at 36, he knows he's closer to the end than he is to the beginning. Some day, there will be a new star in boxing. Part of his goal over the next several years, he said, is to bolster the sport for the next generation.
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And so he focuses, ever so obsessively, on the details.
"I'm always thinking of creative ways to take, not just my fights, but boxing, period, to the next level," he said. "As of now, I'm the face of boxing, but I want the sport of boxing to live on. I always want to be involved and be a part of the sport, so I'm always trying to come up with different, creative ideas. That's what this is about.
"If I see something I can tweak and take to the next level, absolutely, I'll do it. It's about always looking to go to that next level. It's about trying to be the best you can, not just inside the ring but outside it. I look at things with the point-of-view of the long term. ... When my career is over, I want to take my team to that next level so the sport can live on. I've done this my whole life and this is what I love to do."
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